State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Public Welfare chief says agency's name a "barrier"

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Feb 24, 2014 5:42 PM
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Photo by Mary Wilson / witf


The head of the state agency that administers food stamps, Medicaid, and home heating assistance in Pennsylvania told state lawmakers today she'd "love" for the department to get a facelift.

A measure to begin calling the Department of Public Welfare the Department of Human Services is awaiting a vote from a Senate committee. Supporters have said for years the change would show sensitivity to benefit recipients.

DPW Secretary Bev Mackereth said Monday she's on board.

"I think that a name change - every other state did it, and now I know why," Mackereth said. "When you talk about welfare, it is such a negative for people... I didn't say this last year, but it is... it becomes a barrier.

Last year, Mackereth raised concerns about costs, but she said now she's confident the change could be phased in with minimal expenses.

A scheduled Senate committee vote on the measure was scuttled last month, ostensibly to work on proposed amendments to the plan. But the panel's chairman said Monday those amendments have been jettisoned.

The name-change plan passed the House last summer.

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Comments: 2

  • Bill Adams img 2014-02-24 20:55

    Let's call the Welfare Department "The Agency of Hard-working Geniuses". That will make everyone feel better, and that's what life is all about.

  • freemktmonkey img 2014-02-25 10:55

    How about we call it the Department of Human Disservice? So many of these "services" serve to lock people in as slaves to the government because of how they are structured. There should be a ramp out of poverty and need for public assistance from others, not the step approach, with its perverse incentives to stay put lest a program abruptly drop off for earning that next dollar that sets one back hundreds or thousands of dollars. A certain level of shame in being on the public dole is not a bad thing and for those able enough serves as motivation to do for one's self. Secretary Mackereth should feel shame in promoting what will only allow those on assistance to feel more comfortable and less motivated to move on.

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